Major Theories regarding Language Acquisition (Essay Sample)
Assignment 1 - Essay Question
You will have to complete a 2,000-word essay (worth 50%) on the relationship between the language learning theory we have discussed in the course and your own language learning/teaching experience. A key aspect of this assignment will be your ability to relate theory to practice and show how the different language learning theories we examine have implications for the way languages should be taught.
Using information from the module explains how language teaching has been influenced by language learning theory In answering this question try to reflect on YOUR OWN language learning and teaching experiences.
You should focus your discussion on examining concepts that have informed and generated debate in the discipline, paying attention to each of the following areas of Second Language Acquisition and how it is interpreted in the classroom.
• External perspectives in language learning and teaching
• Internal perspectives in language learning and teaching
• Learner differences
Provide your essay with:
• An introduction that explains your purpose and the concepts you will cover
• Three sections, each dealing with aspects derived from the areas above. You will need to explain:
o Why do scholars feel these distinctions are valuable when discussing SLA.
o A brief explanation of the main components of these areas - including personal accounts of how they are interpreted in the classroom and your own evaluation of their merits for the language teacher.
• A discussion/ conclusion, identifying if possible any connections between the three sections and how these will help to inform your practice as a teacher in the future.
Introduction to Second Language Acquisition
[Relationship between language learning theory and my own language teaching experience]
Language is the cognitively known aspect that renders us as humans. This is because, through language we can infinitely express ideas in sentences by use of limited symbols which are words and sounds of speech. It is possible for individuals at any age of life to acquire and learn a second language. Thus second language acquisition (SLA) refers to the learning of a sequential second language after the first language has already been inherently established (VanPatten & Williams, 2014). Often times, second language happens when we go to school to learn English when already we have a language that we speak other than English. Children find it easier to acquire a second language although any one can still learn though it demands a lot of practice. SLA explores how non-native speakers tend to develop proficiency both pragmatically and linguistically in English or a preferred second language in tandem with most language models, hypotheses and learning theories developed from first language. SLA is committed towards examining the processes, environments and the products of language acquisition. Language learning is like acquiring a new skill (Thompson & Spenceley, 2019). The theory of learning language acquisition notes that children tend to acquire language just as they understand on how to count or to tie shoes via reinforcement and repetition. Language crops and grows from stimuli and response to that stimulus. While children get older, they are offered praises whenever they speak correctly and also corrected anytime they misspeak. While languages are being taught all over the world, the best way to teach and acquire a second language is still a concern for scholars. This is so because there are number of things which determine how second language is introduced such as intrinsic motivation of the learner, opportunity to practice the language and the reason why second language is needed (Nam, 2020). In this essay I look into the relationship between language learning theory and my own language teaching experience. While doing so I will relate theory to practice and demonstrate the manner in which different learning theories have implications in how language should be taught. This discussion is split into three different sections: external perspectives, internal perspectives and individual differences. Each of this section will dive into different aspects while I shall offer my personalized experience in teaching second language.
Major theories regarding Language Acquisition
The best known theory in language acquisition is the nativist theory which notes that every human is born with some content in the genes which permits them to acquire language. Somewhere in our brains there is a theoretical language acquiring device and it is responsible for how we learn language. Further, the theory describes a universal grammar which is shared across different languages as a portion of our genetic framework. A similar manner of structuring thought patterns is found in every language. It explains why children at tender ages are able to learn such complicated ideas about language in a very fast way (Song, 2017)). The other theory is the interactionist theory or the sociocultural theory which combines a set of ideas from science and sociology. It suggests that children acquire language out of a desire that they want to converse with their surroundings and thus the language emerges and is dependent upon whom they interact with (Klose, 2018). If language ability develops out of our desire to communicate, the interactionist theory says that then language is greatly determined by whom we want to communicate with. Conversely this shows how the environment has a great impact on how well we learn and speak language. Another learning theory is behaviorism which was developed by Skinner. He argued that we learn language on the basis of the behaviorist reinforcement principles where words are associated with meanings. Correct utterance is positively reinforced whenever the learner understands the communicative value of phrases and words. Behaviorism holds that learning develops depending on response to stimuli which is connected through operant conditioning, habit formation and reinforcement (Meisel, 2008). From a behaviorist point of view language is learnt as a habit formation, mistakes should be avoided because they are bad habits, skills in language are fast-learnt orally and then written and meaning of words is better learnt in cultural or linguistic context. Constructivism is another theory and it views learning as nonlinear, recursive and interpretive process where active learners interact with surroundings of social and physical world. Cognitive constructivism is the work of Piaget and notes that a person learns and develops knowledge through experience (Filsecker & Bündgens-Kosten, 2012). Sociocultural constructivism is the work of Vygotsky and emphasizes on the social context on which learning stems.
External perspectives in language learning and teaching
According to behaviorist theory by Skinner (1985), acquisition of language is like verbal behavior and thus language can be observed instead of just explaining mental perspectives which underlie such behaviors (Włosowicz, 2016). There are many generalized factors which influence the acquisition of the second language such as personality, motivation, attitudes, cognitive styles, intelligence, aptitude, age etc. Thus external perspective in language acquisition entails the overall approach to how language must be taught, syllabus types, materials, classroom roles, methodological procedures and assessment criteria.
In understanding external perspectives, the approaches of teaching chosen towards second language acquisition, the syllabus, materials and teaching approaches do matter. Such are the factors which affect the way in which affect the way a language is taught. For this essay we look into teaching methodologies as well as accuracy vs. fluency. There are a number of methodologies applied in teaching second language. Some of the methods include Audio-lingual and Communicative language teaching (CLT) which is linked to behaviorism theory of learning and interactionist theory respectively (Alamri, 2018). Behaviorism theory is instrumental in classroom in understanding the manner in which to motivate learners. Information undergoes transfer from the tutor to the learner. Students become passive participants while the teacher gives information as a key element of stimulus response. Behaviorism is used by the teacher to show learners how they should respond and react to given stimuli which is done repetitively in order that learners may get to understand the behavior which the tutor is looking for (Song, 2017). Having mentioned behaviorism as a key learning theory, it goes together with audio-lingual teaching methodology. In audio-lingual, the concept is that when it comes to learning a language, habits are acquired. It goes hand in hand with
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